Archive for February, 2016

February 28, 2016

Of Interest (28 February, 2016)

Rohith Vemula/JNU/India/This Cultural Moment:

How Delhi Police put out our candlelight vigil for Rohith.

Asha Kowtal on the insidious decentring of caste from the discourse. “Because our history is being distorted even before it is fully formed.” (Via Amba Azaad.)

In recent weeks I’ve kept linking to things Ravish Kumar says/does because he’s great; here’s an interview.

A photo essay in the Caravan by Nikhil Roshan, as a group of JNU students waited to be arrested.

Lawrence Liang on Gandhi, Tagore and Anti/Nationalism.

 

Books:

This awards season, remember the Gold Star Awards (and be glad that the Mongrel Coalition Against Gringpo exists and is in the world)

Claudia Rankine is interviewed here by Lauren Berlant and some good things are said. (Via Kawrage on twitter.)

Sarah Howe is interviewed by Greg McCartney, and she also says good things. (Via Sandeep Parmar.)

Ethan Robinson reviews Nancy Jane Moore’s The Weave, and in the process also offers a reading of the entire genre, and of assumptions in fiction in general, that I’d find useful and important even if a) he wasn’t a friend b) I hadn’t edited this.

Smriti Daniel on the Noolaham Digital Library.

Kuzhali Manickavel’s continued explorations into SF on the radio are still great. “It is neat how advice about sex can also be advice about interacting with aliens.” (Via Blaft)

E.R. Truitt (whose book sounds relevant to the interests of many who read this) on our imaginary North.

Adam Roberts on the wrath of Achilles John Wick.

Nayomi Munaweera is author-photographed twice.

 

 

February 25, 2016

The Adventures of Stoob/The Tigers of Taboo Valley

While I’m in India, I’m trying to make my way through as many relatively recent children’s books as I can get a hold of; particularly those on this shortlist (the picture books and fiction, mostly). Here are a couple, both published by Red Turtle/Rupa in 2014:

51C6nTU6HDLSamit Basu and Sunaina Coelho, The Adventures of Stoob: Testing Times

I’ve never actually read a Wimpy Kid book, so saying that this is like one of those is probably not the most rigorous of statements. But it certainly feels like it wants to be seen that way, judging by the cover art, etc. They’re for similar age groups, they’re told in first person with text interspersed with comical illustrations, both series even begin with slouching boys with backpacks, but that’s a bit of a reach. (There are obvious differences—the Wimpy Kid books are presented as diaries, whereas the context of Stoob’s narrative is less clear; Coelho’s illustrations aren’t so much a part of the narrative as they illustrate and enhance particular ideas/images. But still.)

Stoob (Subroto Bandhopadhyay) is 10 and in class 5, and a few short months away from being a senior. Those months are, it seems, to be filled with end of year exams—there are also monkeys and crows, more diligent friends, and a quest to stop a friend from cheating in the final exam. It’s light and funny and gave me a mnemonic for remembering the order of the Mughal emperors. There was a moment partway through where I thought we might be heading for a rather abrupt genre switch; Stoob’s guitar teacher is missing from his home, and the door is unlocked, the house is a mess, and there’s a horrible smell. Fortunately there’s an innocent explanation, and lightness is restored.

It’s all good fun and the illustrations are great, but I’m not particularly drawn into Stoob. As I say above, the context of his story is never quite clear—is he addressing an audience? Is this a diary? Are we in his head? How much does he feel the need to explain to his audience, whoever they are? I’d have liked to see more interiority given to these characters—to, for example, see the cheating dilemma feel like the huge battle for the soul that Stoob seems to think it is (which is not to suggest that I want morally instructive books about the badness of cheating in school exams). I’d just like more substance somewhere.

 

Ranjit Lal, The Tigers of Taboo Valley

The anthropomorphised-animals-with-apposite-names genre is not one I particularly appreciate except when targeted at very small children (what about Kipling??? cry my readers. Kipling is an exception to most rules). Particularly when the naming attempts clumsy references to Our World Today. Unfortunately, this is exactly the sort of book that The Tigers of Taboo Valley is—the tigers in question are both well aware of, and a bit obsessed with, their presentation in the media (courtesy a famous wildlife photographer named Ayesha, with luxuriant black hair). We’re told that Rana Shaan-Baahadur changes his facebook profile picture often—except not really, he’s a tiger, their facebook walls are the trees they urinate on. The vultures are named Diclo and Fenac, the crocodiles Magar and Machch, the jackal is Naradmunni, the poacher is Khoon-Pyaasa. This is all probably fine if you’re into this sort of thing. There are also terrorist porcupines: the Al Seekh Kebab Atankvad Andolan (ASKAA). This is not fine, it is cringeworthy.

Raat-ki-Rani, the mother of four cubs, is shot by the poacher, Rana Shaan-Bahadur takes over parenting duties. Taboo Valley is so named because the former natives put chemicals in their cattle to increase milk production and in doing so poisoned the vultures (and possibly the cattle?). It’s now deserted and the animals are afraid to enter it—except that they do enter it, and find that it’s perfectly safe, so it’s hard to be sure what the point of this interlude was other than to give the book an alliterative title (and gesture at an Important Lesson about putting chemicals in your cows). The other tigers decide to kill Rana Shaan-Bahadur for being a disgrace to gendered assumptions about parenting, the porcupines and hyenas and poachers are also converging upon the family, and it all gets a bit Game of Thrones. Everyone makes it out alive, somehow.

I’m being harsh, probably; other than some of the cringey names it’s perfectly competent. I’d rather read the Jungle Book, like many of Lal’s own characters.

February 21, 2016

Of Interest (21 February, 2016)

 

Sedition/JNU/Being Anti-National/Campus politics and the state:

 

Kanhaiya Kumar’s speech (translated from Hindi), before he was arrested.

Rahi Gaikwad on caste and the nation. (Via Mridula Chari)

Puja Sen in Himal on what all of this says about the party in power.

Jamall Calloway connecting Rohith Vemula’s death to a wider system of global oppressions. (Via Shruti Iyer)

(via Aakshi Magazine,) Mohamad Junaid on freedom of expression, the space of the campus, what the current narrative centres and what it erases. This, in particular:

The same day frothing TV journalists were holding court martials against Umar Khalid and Kanhaiya Kumar, the news of Shaista’s and Danish’s cold blooded murders was quietly suppressed—part of a larger history of suppression, which makes a certain kind of “national conscience” possible in India.

Swara Bhaskar writes to Umar Khalid.

David Palumbo-Liu on the possible ramifications in the US of what’s happening at home. (Via Chris Taylor)

Atul Dev in conversation with Vikram Chauhan, the lawyer who led the attacks on students and journalists outside Patiala House.

Nayan Jyoti points out that the state’s repression of the university just happens to be taking place at the same time as it suppresses workers across Haryana and Rajasthan. (TW for pictures of injuries, possibly)

Meanwhile, Dalit activists seeking permission to fly a black flag are arrested.

Shuddhabrata Sengupta on Ambedkar, Tagore and the Nation State.

In the most charming of all possible responses, the university has been hosting public talks on nationhood and they’re all available at the Stand With JNU Youtube page here (schedule here).

A performance of Dastan-e-Sedition.

A tweet by Anupam Kher, actor and tolerant Indian. (At least till someone explains to him about Nazis and he deletes it; though right now he seems to stand by it):

And Ravish Kumar on NDTV with this searing piece of reportage/performance art (on the channel’s website here) about the current state of our news media.

February 14, 2016

Of Interest (14 February, 2016)

Unsorted because I’m on holiday:

Kate Schapira on bodies and science and the world and bringing people into it.

Keguro Macharia on living with Jess Row’s Your Face in Mine. (Disclaimer because I edited this; on the other hand, it’s wonderful and everyone should read it.)

Sophia Azeb on the Tate Britain’s Artist and Empire exhibition.

Timothy Burke on Uagadou and the mechanics of African wizarding schools.

Ruchika Sharma on the origins of the Bhojshala myth.

Anuradha Vikram on witches and anti-colonial botany. Via Karen Gregory.

Soraya Roberts on Winona Ryder. Via Anna Carey.

Debbie Chachra on maker culture and the forms of work it excludes or devalues.

A roundtable (feat. Naomi Zeichner, Doreen St Felix, Anupa Mistry and Judnick Mayard) on Beyoncé’s “Formation“. Via Kate Schapira.

“and next thing you know the State has sponsored a musical warning people about you.” Creatrix Tiara on decolonization, western activism, other complicated things. Via Shruti Iyer.

A Dalit Marxist Manifesto by Chittibabu Padavala.

Edit: And this gorgeous piece on urban India, imagining love, and cinema, by Ravish Kumar. In Hindi here, translated into English here.

 

 

 

 

February 1, 2016

January Reading

Look at all the books I read this month! …

… a regency romance and a comic. Putting words into my eyes is currently not a thing I enjoy at all. I’m taking some time off in February, and am hoping I’ll magically find myself inhaling and wanting to talk about books as a result.

 

Loretta Chase, Dukes Prefer Blondes: Hm. I’m not a big fan of the Dressmakers series–Chase is always going to be a good writer, but what I value most in her is her humour, and these books are relatively short on that. This was a nice evening’s read, but I can’t imagine wanting to return to it as I would many of her other books. It’s also rather suggestive of the limitations (boundaries? Limitations sounds inherently negative) of the form; the minute you discover that the un-titled, not-rich hero has a titled cousin, you just know he’s going to inherit the dukedom, even if the title hadn’t (why that title? it’s a poor title) pretty much told you this anyway.

Woods NiobeSebastian A. Jones, Amandla Stenberg, Ashley A. Woods, Darrell May, Hyoung Taek Nam, Joshua Cozine, Niobe: She Is Life #1:  I don’t read comics enough until they’re pressed on me by friends who know what I’ll like, and when I do they’re usually a) in trade form and b) things for which I already have some context. So it’s possible that my general sense that I have no idea what is happening in this story is normal for people who start reading new series in single issues that are so short that there’s not much time to find out. I’m only really reading it because the thought of Amandla Stenberg doing a fantasy comic intrigued me. However.

I’ve written elsewhere, I think, of how often reading fantasy in India in the 90s was a process full of gaps; you’d start a series in medias res, would quite likely never read the next (or the last) book, and if your interest in fantasy is in estrangement and being unsettled (and not in the Learning All The Things And Filling In All The Gaps) this is a great initiation into the genre. Reading Niobe reminded me very much of that feeling–it’s proper epic fantasy; there are a lot of people (and gods?) with important ancestries and destinies being very angry about things I don’t understand yet, but I am entirely sucked in, am planning to read Jones’s The Untamed (which, I understand, is set in this world and to which this is a sort of sequel), and am looking forward to the next issue (which I’m told will be out at the end of the month). Plus Ashley A. Woods’s art is gorgeous.